Fleet Dinghy Cruising
Dinghy cruises are one of the Club’s most popular activities and the dinghy section has a long history of providing safe and enjoyable dinghy cruising, both on the Solent and further afield.
Most dinghy cruises take place in the sheltered waters of the Solent. The boats are usually prepared for the road the night before and are towed down to the coast, where they are launched from a suitable public slip way or sailing club.We are fortunate to have the use of a number of launching sites in both the East and West Solent, resulting in a large area of reasonably sheltered water to explore. The cruise itself often involves a trip over to the Isle of Wight or, if this is not suitable, to a destination somewhere else in the Solent, such as a beach or a destination further up Southampton Water. Dinghy Cruises are open to all Club members, no matter what their experience. The Club has a great deal of experience organising these days and a good deal of effort is put in behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly. A programme of events, including regular dinghy cruises is published at the start of the season and each event is appointed an Advanced Organiser (AO) and an Officer of the Day (OOD).
The Advanced organiser is responsible for organising who is going on the event, which boats are available and the logistics of getting everyone to the coast. The Officer of the Day takes overall responsibility for the day and the Club is very fortunate to have some very capable and experienced OODs.
More details of the responsibilities of AOs and OODs are given in the dinghy cruise notes which are available to members in the membership area.
The dinghy cruises organised by the Club are open to all Club members, no matter how experienced or well qualified. Nearly all the weekend day cruises are on the Solent, where the wind is less fluky than at Frensham Pond SC and waves and tides add an extra dimension.
The cruises are usually on a weekend and often start early. The number of boats being taken is sometimes limited by the number of towbars, so if you have one on your car, you will be in demand. People who aren’t towing boats usually pile into the towing cars to share the cost of petrol and make the event more sociable. Really keen sailors spend the whole journey listening for weather forecasts and trying to tune into Radio Solent for the local outlook, while the rest of us just prepare for the coming day’s events!
As long as the wind is not too strong, the cruise generally goes ahead as planned, but if the forecast is bad the previous evening then all participants are informed that the sail is off. This means that a set of waterproofs is required by everyone. Wetsuits, drysuits and special boots etc are worn by some, but they are not essential. The essentials are: packed lunch including plenty of water/squash/hot drink, soft-soled shoes (e.g. deck strollers, trainers etc), a set of spare clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers, sun-cream, and a small amount of money for petrol sharing and drinks at the pub/ice creams on the beach.
Once down at the coast, everybody wakes up again and the boats are rigged; this is a good exercise for learning the ropes as the boats are completely dismantled for the journey and the boat captains invariably refer to every bit of string by its proper name. There are usually four or more boats and enough sailors to warrant three to a boat on most occasions; this leads to a more sociable sail, especially if you change boats for the return trip.
There are a variety of dinghies owned by Club members and the Club, providing opportunity to sail on GRP and wooden GP14s, the Club Comet Trios (an exciting sail with an asymmetric spinnaker) and possibly some others too. Once the crews are organised so that everyone is happy, the Officer of the Day gets the charts and tidal atlas out to explain to everyone exactly where we are going.
At this stage of the proceedings, the mood and capability of all the participants, the latest weather forecast, and the prevailing weather conditions help to tailor the goals of the day. The trip over to the Isle of Wight takes 2-3 hours, maybe less in a good wind or much longer in a poor one, and there is usually a pub with easy access by boat. We all bask in the sun for an hour, eat and drink (not too much), and laugh at anyone who capsized.
Depending on the timing of lunch and factors previously outlined, the dinghies then head straight home or on an indirect cruise via some other point of interest (getting an ice cream from Ryde has been attempted and failed due to localised Doldrums).
Once back on land, the boats are packed up ready for the return journey, and everybody gets changed into clean, dry clothes. On the return journey, a stop at a public house cannot be avoided, especially in nice weather, and a pint of beer will be all it takes to knock you out at the end of the day. By 10pm everybody is home, in the bath (but not necessarily all together!).
Portsmouth, Langstone and Chichester are all easily accessable harbours and offer some good sheltered sailing. This becomes particularly attractive when the conditions on the Solent are too extreme for an enjoyable sail – often the shelter of a harbour can make all the difference. We usually plan at least one harbour sail in our sailing programme.
Another alternative, when conditions at the coast are not favourable, is to head inland to a local lake or reservoir. There are plenty of options for day sailing at reasonable rates and it is often a pleasant change to sail without the worry of waves or tide.
Beach days are popular club events with a range of watersports (dinghy sailing, windsurfing, canoeing) taking place from a fixed location (often from Stokes Bay on the East Solent). These events are open to club members and their friends and families. They offer an ideal opportunity for beginners to try different activities and improvers to practice new techniques (such as trapezing and spinnaker work). Stokes Bay has a good beach (although it is pebbly) with some facilities close by, ideal for relaxing between activities.These days tend to be less stressful than a full day’s cruise with more time for relaxing. There isn’t the need to wory so much what the tide is going to do or if the wind is going to die. There is usually the option of a lunch time beach BBQ if there is enough interest.